Marc from Southwest Asia

All this hoopla around OTAs and the offseason brings joy to some NFL fans and annoys others. What was the offseason like back in the day? Were there OTAs and what did NFL sports writers do?

In the real old days, the draft was conducted a week or two after the Super Bowl was played, and that was it until the start of training camp, which began right after the Fourth of July and lasted until Labor Day. It was intense, as it was used for conditioning, teaching and evaluation. I remember starting to cover a new thing called mini-camp in the late ’70s. It was conducted over the Memorial Day weekend. Then, in the ’80s, we got spring drills that are today’s OTAs, and that’s when the offseason started to go away and football started to become a year-round game. Prior to that, reporters that covered the NFL were assigned to cover other sports during the offseason. I covered basketball, baseball and golf. When training camp arrived, everybody packed up and went off to camp because, in those days, most teams went away for training camp, instead of practicing at their own facilities. Covering training camp was a rite of passage and it always authored a new chapter of stories that would become legendary. I remember the combined practices and scrimmages craze; covering scrimmages in high school stadiums that were bulging with fans. The “day” wasn’t so bad.

Martin from Northfield, MN

Does looking forward to updates about OTAs take my love of the Packers to an unhealthy level?

There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re anxious for football to begin. As I’ve said, the USFL screwed up. They burned themselves out and quit too early on what was a great idea. Yes, there is a market for football in the spring and the NFL has tapped it with free agency in March, the draft in April and OTAs in May and June.

Jeffrey from Madison, WI

In what ways would you say football mirrors life?

They’re both competitive, difficult, rewarding, dangerous, challenging, make you laugh, make you cry and require the participation of others.

Ed from Des Plaines, IL

Vic, the NFL rulebook can easily be downloaded at nfl.com.

Read it at your own risk.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

How much do the intangibles count when selecting the 53 that make the team? By intangibles, I mean things like leadership, unselfishness, locker-room presence, maturity, things that make the people around you better. Aren't those qualities counted when the decision has to be made on who to keep and who goes home?

They absolutely count, but only after the player has proven he has the physical talent to be an NFL player. First, the tangibles, then the intangibles.

Kevin from Atlanta, GA

Vic, honestly, it's time for you to move on. Your style is annoying the readers and they are reacting. Either you adjust or you move on. The readers won't change. Drop the arrogance.

Not NASCAR? Soccer?

Jon from Green Bay, WI

Why do people who don’t like you read your column?

I don’t know; ask Kevin.

Mike from Wonder Lake, IL

I drove over seven hours round trip to watch the Packers OTA practice Wednesday, and I was surprised (happily) that they practiced outside, despite the rain. Although I realize teams need to be able to deal with the elements, is it a little risky to be playing on a potentially slippery surface like that when you don't really have to, considering the high cost of players’ contracts? Is it unusual for NFL teams to practice in the rain like that?

I didn’t sense danger. It was a cold, uncomfortable rain, but it was more of a mist than a downpour. Teams are very sensitive to unnecessary risk and I have no doubt that had the rain intensified, practice would’ve been moved indoors. The fact that they practiced outside in the rain on Wednesday tells us something about Mike McCarthy’s emphasis on ball security. After losing three fumbles in the playoff loss to the Giants, McCarthy is emphasizing ball security, and Wednesday’s practice was heavy in ball-security drills, on a perfect day to practice it.

Bart from Sanibel, FL

How good are Borel and Gurley?

Tori Gurley blocks punts like nobody I’ve ever seen. Diondre Borel is bigger and stronger than the quarterback-looking guy that caught my eye in last year’s training camp. Gurley, Borel and Shaky Smithson are wide receiver holdovers from last season that bear watching.

Matt from Burnsville, MN

In your years of covering the NFL, is there one player that stands out more than the any other in terms of unrealized success, either due to health or lack of commitment to their craft?

Barry Foster is the most talented player I’ve covered that should’ve become a great player but didn’t. Foster had rare talent for a running back and finished second to Emmitt Smith for the rushing title in 1992. Foster had one more good year and then he faded away. He just didn’t love football and he admitted it. He had as much talent as any running back I ever covered.

Jeff from Seattle, WA

Very rarely do you see an NFL player voluntarily walk away from the game. Obviously, each individual has their own reasons, but do you see a common thread among such players?

These guys have invested too much of their lives in football to leave money on the table. Most of them need to get every bit out of their careers they can. The ones that have achieved stardom and preserved its rewards are fortunate to be able to retire on their terms, yet, few do. Barry Sanders did it the right way, though it would’ve been better had he made the decision earlier than on the eve of training camp. Nevertheless, with the specter of having to endure another training camp hanging over his head, he decided he had done enough and left his place on the roster for a “young lion” hungry for fresh meat. I like that.

Jason from Summerville, SC

Wouldn’t it make sense to keep six receivers on the roster? Look at what happened to Jennings last year. At any moment in any game, one of our greats could get hurt.

When I heard Mike McCarthy raise the possibility of keeping six wide receivers, I thought to myself: “Why do I think that decision has already been made?” Then I thought to myself, “Five tight ends, too?”

Saif from Evansville, IN

I know the majority of Packers may not agree, but I'm not as excited as some to see Driver return. Don't get me wrong, the guy is a great. I'd just like to see Cobb and Jones play more downs.

Don’t worry about anyone holding Randall Cobb back; that isn’t going to happen. Donald Driver is going to compete to keep his place of importance and esteem among the Packers’ wide receivers, and that’s going to make all of the team’s wide receivers better, including Cobb. James Jones is a proven veteran.

Dave from Reno, NV

When you purchase your ticket to “Burning Man,” the ticket plainly states you accept risk of accidental death and/or serious injury by attending the event. Why can't football players sign such a document and off we go?

I’m not an attorney and I’m not sure to what degree a waiver does or doesn’t extinguish responsibility, but what a great gimmick that waiver must be for attracting people to that event. Hey, we love danger; we’re attracted to it. Safe doesn’t sell.

Ron from Thompson Falls, MT

Any chance the Packers will retire the number 80 after Donald retires?

When I arrived in Green Bay and, of course, needed to find my way around town, I was confused by the practice of using letters to designate highways. I thought to myself, “Why don’t they use numbers?” Now I know why: They ran out of them. This has to be the retire-numbers capital of the world. I think Donald’s number is going to be taken out of service for a while, but how can the Packers officially retire it without retiring half a dozen other numbers? And what about the numbers of receivers of the future? The way the game is going, receivers of the future are going to amass stats that are going to blow away their predecessors’ production. I think the practice of “officially” retiring numbers needs to be revisited, certainly tempered. The Packers have a Hall of Fame and Donald Driver is certain to be inducted into it.

Robert from Coupeville, WA

Vic, if Charlotte is one of your favorite cities, could you tell us your bottom 10 so we have more to fight about?

I don’t have a bottom 10, but the last time I was in Dallas they were building an 18-lane highway, and I’m just not an 18-lane highway kind of guy.

Zenia from Peachtree City, GA

You said the “Coach's Challenge” rule is one of the most abused rules. How so?

The intent of the “Coach’s Challenge” is to correct an officiating mistake, yet, built into the rule is a provision that allows for a coach to sabotage that intent by ordering a hurried start to the next play, which a coach would do when he clearly sees an officiating mistake has been made and it’s a mistake that benefits the coach’s team, not the pursuit of justice. What were they thinking when they wrote this rule, and why do they continue to allow this travesty of justice?

Bob from Cincinnati, OH

Vic, I was watching an old “Hard Knocks” the other day. Two rookies were in one room and one of them snored so much that the other dude could not sleep. I was shocked that the team did not have a remedy in place.

I knew a guy who couldn’t sleep at night because his roommate was up all night chanting. Could you sleep in a room with a guy who’s chanting? I asked the guy what he did about it, and he said he asked the team if he could have another room because his roommate was up all night chanting, and then the team cut the guy that was chanting. Fixed!

Ari from Las Vegas, NV

I thought I was the only one with socks obsession. My wife thinks it’s weird that I wear two pairs of socks and my sock drawer has to be organized a certain way. I don't feel that bad now that I know at least there’s another person obsessed with socks like me.

You wear two pairs of sock in Las Vegas, in the summer? You might have gone over the edge and need help. While I’m on the subject of socks, I’m requesting that everybody who wears socks with their golf shoes and wants to golf in the “Ask Vic Golf Outing” please register as soon as possible, so we know where we stand and we can finalize plans. Thanks.

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